Syrian official: Talks will continue without Olmert

Reports progress in Istanbul negotiations, says Damascus not ready for direct talks.

golan heights 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
golan heights 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Indirect talks between Israel and Syria will go on despite Prime Minister Ehud Olmert having recently said he will resign once a new leader of his Kadima party is chosen, Reuters quoted senior Syrian official Buthaina Shaaban as saying Wednesday. "We are not concerned with whether Olmert resigns or not. We are not a party to internal Israeli issues," she told reporters. Shaaban, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, went on to say that the Turkish-mediated talks had not yet made enough progress to move on to direct negotiations and that an agreement should not be expected in the near future. However, Shaaban added that "if the talks had not progressed then they would have been stopped." Shaaban did not give details on the topics discussed in the previous four rounds of talks, but told reporters that direct talks would not begin unless Damascus could be certain that Israel would cede all of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967. "The talks are still preliminary and indirect. When we achieve the progress we want then the political leadership might take a decision to move to direct talks. The guidelines are our land and rights," Reuters quoted her as saying. Israel and Syria wrapped up a fourth round of indirect talks in Istanbul last Wednesday, with a Turkish official being quoted by AP as saying that the two sides had decided to hold more indirect talks there in the coming months. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.